Gift Wrapped in Grace

I couldn’t have asked for more than God in deliberate grace has surprised me with!   ~ Jim Elliot

We live in a world of unanticipated moments. When I think of the word surprise, I think of laughter and joy and unexpected gifts. But not all surprises are so pleasant. Some come wrapped in ribbons of defeat and pain and betrayal.

I expect that’s why most children love surprises so much more than adults. The ribbons are always right. As the world expands to include more and more experiences, we become more cautious about what lies beneath the wrappings. We learn that pretty packaging tells nothing about the present.

It’s different with God. He’s the giver of all good gifts. His intentional, deliberate grace is the most remarkable surprise of all!

Grace – re-gift it!


Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.  ~C.S. Lewis

To be honest, if God asked, most of my life I’d have been content to be made into a decent little cottage. I was willing to see what I showed. From all appearances, it seemed to be a neat and tidy place with a leak or two and a few cracks in the plaster. But He saw the neglect; the rot and the decay I continued to putty and paint over.

He walked among the shards of promises unmet and unkept. He stepped into the wreckage of my self-worth and neglected gifts and piece by piece began the work of rebuilding. He didn’t bring in a bulldozer. That would have been my vote. Instead He took upon Himself the tedious task of restoration.

There have been times when I thought the pain was too heavy for these weak walls, but in those moments, God always added a support beam. Board by board and brick by brick, He’s rebuilding His dwelling, true to the original schematics.

That’s grace.

Do It Again!

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony.

But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.    ~ G.K. Chesterton


I love this quote because it makes me laugh and I love it because it reminds me that growing up isn’t a race toward the next event, the next holiday, the next achievement. It’s not a test of sophistication or talent or endurance or excellence. Growing up is slowing down to taking in every grace filled moment.

Tonight I’m missing the moon. I fell in love with the moon in the great green room many years ago. Night after night after night, my Mom would read Good Night Moon and night after night I’d say: Do it again! Do it again!

I still love the moon. I’m enchanted by its predictable cycle of waxing and waning. Just days ago it was stunningly huge and orange as it overwhelmed the eastern sky. Tonight it’s waned entirely, deferring to the stars. In a day or two, the moon will begin its shy return. My heart smiles as I say to God: Do it again! Do it again!

How to Conquer the World

The love for equals is a human thing–of friend for friend, brother for brother. It is to love what is loving and lovely. The world smiles. The love for the less fortunate is a beautiful thing–the love for those who suffer, for those who are poor, the sick, the failures, the unlovely. This is compassion, and it touches the heart of the world. The love for the more fortunate is a rare thing–to love those who succeed where we fail, to rejoice without envy with those who rejoice, the love of the poor for the rich, of the black man for the white man. The world is always bewildered by its saints. And then there is the love for the enemy–love for the one who does not love you but mocks, threatens, and inflicts pain. The tortured’s love for the torturer. This is God’s love. It conquers the world. ~ Frederick Buechner

I made a checklist as I was reading Buechner tonight. I considered what kind of lover I am. Here are my results. You can try it, too, if you like.

Love for my friends and family and kindred souls. You bet!

Love for equals


Love for those who suffer and struggle, who fail and have been less fortunate than I have been. The poor, the sick, the unlovely and the ungrateful. Most of the time.

Love for the less fortunate


Love for the more fortunate. Unusual category. Love for those who succeed where I fail, for the wealthy, the famous. So far so good. Love for those who have much but give little. Love for the selfish, the arrogant and the prideful. Not sure.

Love for the more fortunate


Love for the one who mocks, threatens, inflicts pain on me. Sometimes. Love for the one who mocks, threatens, inflicts pain on those I love the most. Less likely. Love for the intolerant, the hate monger, the abuser, the torturer. Not so much.

Love for the enemy


For the love of God, I have boxes that need work. I’m a great theoretical lover. But love isn’t theory. If it isn’t practiced, it isn’t love.

You’ll know them by their love. I want to be known for that; known as a lover, the grateful recipient of grace who never, for a moment, hesitates to offer it to others.

A Sunday Song – Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy

Little Drummer Boy ~ Katherine Kennicot Davis

Come they told me
Pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see,
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King
Pa rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
So to honor Him
Pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby
Pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too,
Pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring
Pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give our King
Pa rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
Shall I play for you!
Pa rum pum pum
On my drum.

Mary nodded
Pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time
Pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him
Pa rum pum pum
I played my best for Him
Pa rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
Rum pum pum pum
Then He smiled at me
Pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

Every Christmas we watched It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. Maybe that’s why I grew up with a crush on Jimmy Stewart and Bing Crosby.

I was a sophomore in college when I saw the Christmas Special with this Bing Crosby/David Bowie duet. Bing and Bowie, a most unlikely of pairings. The song combined an old carol – Little Drummer Boy (1941) with a new counterpart Peace on Earth, written especially for Bowie and Crosby.

The song was a huge hit (Crosby’s second biggest, after White Christmas), but it was also hugely controversial in the religious community. Churches protested this combination: two secular artists, singing of sacred things. It reminds me of other protests over other unusual combinations: of Jews with Gentiles, of sin with grace. It reminds me of Paul: But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice! Phil:1:18

I promised this song as a Christmas greeting to my blogger friend who loves the song but doesn’t care much for Christmas. Merry Christmas to you, my friend, as you lay low and to all as we try to play our best for Him.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

The giving of gifts is not something man invented. God started the giving spree when he gave a gift beyond words, the unspeakable gift of His Son. ~ Robert Flatt

I’ve been thinking a lot about Christmas traditions. I grew up in a home filled with faith and fun. Christmas Eve was spent around the fireplace, reading Luke and lighting candles and singing Joy to the World and Silent Night. It was sweet and sacred.

Christmas morning meant stockings full of candy and nuts and the oddest trinkets my Mom could find in those funny little catalogs. After breakfast, we opened our gifts. Most were homemade: wooden games, odd lamps and candle holders made by Dad; new clothes sewn by Mom. There were also a few store items, that special game or toy particularly hoped for that year.

I carried my childhood traditions into my own family, enlarging them. The stockings got bigger and bigger and more expensive to fill. The gifts under the tree took hours to unwrap.

I thought I was setting an example of giving, but I was really setting an example of getting. In spite of me, my daughter and son have grown up to be kind, generous and thoughtful adults.

I’ve changed. I’ve learned a great deal about generosity and hope these past few years. If this were a Dickens memory, the Ghost of Christmas Past would be one of regret. But it isn’t. I have wonderful memories and I have things I would do differently. If I were raising my children now, I would have stockings that were silly and fun and a gift or two that I knew they would enjoy.

The rest of their present would be to give them the money I would have spent on their gifts, for them to use to give to others. Maybe they would have had the joy of anonymously paying off someone’s utility bill or Christmas layaway toys or dropping bills instead of coins, into the red bucket, sharing in God’s joyful spending spree!

I’m Sorry for Your Loss

Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it.  ~ Henri Nouwen

This is going to be a rather odd little post. I’m writing for your help. This is the time of year when both joys and sorrows are magnified by the expectations of the season. For those who are grieving, over and over you hear I’m sorry for your loss.

I don’t like that sentence. This is likely just my own personal quirk since I’ve never heard anyone else object to it. I don’t know exactly why I don’t like it. I guess it seems like such a platitude to me. It doesn’t feel like going with others to place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. It feels more like fleeing from another’s suffering or applying the obligatory quick cure.

It’s what every one says on TV when delivering news that a loved one has died. Actually, it’s what everyone, in real life, says whenever someone else is sad. I’ve heard it applied to the death of a spouse, a child, a parent, a marriage, a pet, a career, a dream, to bankruptcy, to theft and to competition. It’s on Hallmark cards, Law and Order and the lips of our neighbors.

However well-meaning, I don’t like it, but I don’t know quite how to replace it. It’s a different message than I’m praying for you. It doesn’t have the same intent as I’m thinking about you.

I know sometimes there aren’t words, but when we’re separated by physical distance, sometimes words are all we have.

So, I’m wondering, what words do you use? Me, I generally just end up saying I’m so very sorry. But I’d love to learn from you – all of you. What has comforted you. What have you said to offer comfort?

It is, after all, that time of year when compassion may be the greatest gift we give.